And trying to figure out whether we can do it quickly.
Predicting rookie players’ performances is one of the most difficult tasks for any projection system. By definition, they lack the extensive body of work necessary to analyze their performance. While it’s tempting to foresee a Hall of Fame career in the demeanor of one at-bat, statistics (as well as common sense) caution against it. No matter how locked in or lost a player looks in the sample of a few games, his true skill cannot be inferred from such meager experience.
The ultimate cautionary tale here is Mike Trout, whose first year (2011) MLB stats go like this: .220/.281/.390, in 135 plate appearances. Such a line is not the stuff from which legends are made, and had a lesser prospect posted it, there might have been rumblings of doubt in the media. Trout was decidedly not a lesser prospect, and his raw combination of discipline and athleticism had every scout and fan salivating despite the poor batting average. Even so, it’s still possible to find a few sentences in the press reports of that time which noted his difficulties:
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Writeups on Cody Ponce, a Cape League surprise who continued to shine in the All-Star game, and other prospects.
This year’s Cape League All Star Game was interesting from both a scouting and talking point perspective. The league and managers did a great job picking the best prospects, which hasn’t always been the case in previous years. The biggest name that scouts were excited to see was Kentucky’s Kyle Cody. Cody has been brilliant for Wareham and seems to be the consensus best arm on the Cape this summer. He showed some overpowering mid-90s heat on Sunday night.
The latest on Mookie Betts, Javier Baez, Noah Syndergaard, and other players who should be on your fantasy radar in case they earn promotions.
The Graduates: Neftali Feliz (22)
This past week saw the sad-sack Rangers finally deal off their closer (who had been one of the best in baseball to this point) Joakim Soria to the Tigers, freeing their former star closer to retake the role. Unfortunately, Feliz still doesn’t have his pre-Tommy John velocity back and it’s manifesting itself in diminished strikeout numbers (he has four in 11 1/3 innings). He can keep the job without the whiffs, as they don’t really have a great alternative, but his value will be diminished if it doesn’t pick up a little.
The Departed: Joey Gallo (HM)
As much fun as this would be, there’s just zero incentive for the Rangers to rush Gallo when he hasn’t even gotten a half-season’s worth of at-bats at Double-A.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco and Tigers lefty Kevin Ziomek.
Hitter of the Night: Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies (Lehigh Valley, AAA): 4-4, R, HR, SB.
It’s been a rough season for Franco, who entered the season with some questions about his swing that he made up for with strong bat-to-ball skills. Those questions still remain and have been exposed by Triple-A pitching, though he appears to be making adjustments and is hitting .321 in July. Even with his struggles this season, it’s hard to believe he won’t get a taste of the majors this September on a struggling Phillies team.
Pitcher of the Night: Kevin Ziomek, LHP, Tigers (West Michigan, A-): 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 13 K.
Ziomek, a second-rounder in last year’s draft, is excelling in his first taste of full-season ball despite too many free passes and secondary stuff that hasn’t played as well as it did in college. He has premium velocity from the left side, however, which gives him a high ceiling if the bite can return on his other offerings.
Notes on prospects who stood out over the weekend, including Addison Russell, Bradley Zimmer, Jose Peraza, and Julio Urias.
Friday, July 25
Matt Olson, 1B, Athletics (Stockton, A+): 1-3, 2 R, HR, 2 BB, 2 K. This is a very Matt Olson day, taking five plate appearances and achieving one of the three true outcomes each time. That’s Olson’s game, hitting home runs and drawing walks. The strikeouts will keep his average down, but as long as he’s walking in almost 20 percent of his at-bats and slugging over .500, no one will care. It will be interesting to see how his power holds up when he transitions to Double-A Midland, as that jump has been trouble for A’s power prospects in the past, but his power is more legitimate than many of his predecessors’.
Trading for Kendrys Morales isn't the Mariners' only attempt at an offensive upgrade this week.
The Situation: The Mariners aren’t getting offensive production from the shortstop position at the major-league level, and Taylor has been swinging serious wood at the Triple-A level.
Background: Taylor was an unheralded fifth round selection in the 2012 draft from the University of Virginia despite showing fundamental defensive skills and wheels at the collegiate level. He’s made steady progress since turning pro, hitting at every level and really shining last fall in the prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League, with his gap-to-gap approach and leather ability at a premium spot.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Mariners outfielder Gabriel Guerrero.
Hitter of the Night: Gabriel Guerrero, OF, Mariners (High Desert, A+): 3-4, 3 R, 2B, 2 HR.
Many times with offspring of former players, we get lazy and take the path of least resistance to the easiest comp we can find and compare a player to his father/uncle, etc. When people compare Gabriel to his uncle Vladimir, it’s not laziness. No, he may not be as supremely talented, but few were as gifted as the future Hall of Famer. What we do see, however, are the same mannerisms, styles, and instincts that can only be transferred through DNA. He’s got the Vladdy starter kit, which makes him pretty lucky. What he does with it from here is on him.
Pitcher of the Night: Tyler Anderson, LHP, Rockies (Tulsa, AA): 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, BB, 8 K.
Primarily a fastball/changeup guy, Anderson gets by on command and control rather than velocity. He’s not a strikeout guy and profiles as a back-end starter, but he should be able to eat innings and keep the ball on the ground at Coors Field.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Cubs first baseman Dan Vogelbach and Nats righty A.J. Cole.
Hitter of the Night: Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Cubs (Daytona, A+): 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR.
Vogelbach put on a power display in Palm Beach on Wednesday, hitting a pair of opposite-field home runs to the left-center gap at Roger Dean Stadium, which is no small feat. The big first baseman wants to get his arms extended and is at his best when he’s trying to go up the middle. He had a tendency to reach on balls on the outer half when he gets pull happy, but when he stays up the middle, he can drive the ball to all fields, which is what happened last night. He missed a third home run by less than a foot, pulling one just foul down the right field line.
Pitcher of the Night: A.J. Cole, RHP, Nationals (Syracuse, AAA): 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K.
After bouncing back and forth from Washington to Oakland and back, Cole has finally settled in with the Nationals and is now just a phone call from the majors. His premium fastball continues to carry him, and he commands it well enough to get away with average secondary offerings, even at the highest levels of the minor leagues.
This is what happens when you take a week off in mid-July. Gee and Gausman are both back in their respective rotations and should be stalwarts in most leagues down the stretch. There’s always the chance that the Orioles will do something dumb with Gausman, but here’s hoping we’ve seen the last of their roster games. Alcantara was only scheduled to be up for a couple of days initially, but he’s shown enough for the Cubs to DFA Darwin Barney this week. In fact, he’s doing almost exactly what he was doing in the minors, hitting .286/.316/.543 with six extra-base hits and three steals in eight games. Jimmy Nelson got shelled in his first outing, but it’s safe to say that the second one went better, throwing a quality start against a depleted Reds lineup on Tuesday evening. Unless the Brewers end up being a surprise player for a starting pitcher at the deadline, Nelson should hold off the banished Marco Estrada.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including the Twins' Eddie Rosario and the Pirates' Tyler Glasnow.
Hitter of the Night: Eddie Rosario, OF, Twins (New Britain, AA): 3-5, 3 R, 2B, 2 HR.
Rosario has had trouble getting going after missing the first 50 games of the year with a suspension. His bat will have to carry him, but if he continues to slide down the defensive spectrum (he’s playing some left field now), it may not be enough. There’s enough in the bat for a major league role, though perhaps not an everyday spot.
Pitcher of the Night: Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates (Bradenton, A+): 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K.
I’ve been getting questions for a while now asking whether or not Glasnow should be promoted to Double-A. It’s a common question any time a player is having success at a level, and Glasnow’s success does prompt such inquiries. In Glasnow’s case, however, my answer was that we need to see him throw more strikes before he can move up. As a general philosophy, I don’t like promoting prospects until they’ve mastered a level, and walking a batter every other inning falls just short of that in my book, even if the rest of the production has been as good as Glasnow’s. Plus, he’s young, so there’s no rush.